AS the Philippines struggles to address supply issues of key commodities, another major commodity—water—is also expected to present serious, urgent problems, according to an expert from the World Bank.
In the Washington-based lender’s blog, World Bank Water Global Practice Global Director Saroj Kumar Jha—citing estimates made by the International Monetary Fund (IMF)—said water demand will outstrip supply by 40 percent in less than a decade.
Globally, Jha said 2 billion people still lack safe drinking water and 3.6 billion people are still in need of safe sanitation.
In the Philippines, the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) said 57 million Filipinos have to fetch water for their families from communal pipes or springs or wells up to 250 meters away.
“Water is a basic human right—but it is also a finite resource. Water scarcity is a growing problem, with one in four people living in water-scarce areas,” Jha said. “The global water crisis undermines our ability to produce food, protect livelihoods, and build strong economies.”
Jha said water security is far from being realized in many countries, with an estimated $150 billion needed each year to deliver universal safe water and sanitation globally.
In the Philippines, the Neda said, the country needs to invest P100 billion annually between 2020 and 2030 to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The total price tag to improve the country’s water and sanitation situation is P1.1 trillion
The scale of the needed investments, Jha said, cannot be addressed by just one institution alone. These efforts require greater collaboration between government, businesses, and civil society.
“The scale of investment needed requires the involvement of the private sector and innovative financing mechanisms to complement limited government resources, transforming efficiency and resilience in water-dependent sectors such as agriculture, energy, and industry—and in urban water supply,” Jha said .
In the Philippines, one of the primary solutions is to create the Department of Water which aims to address the fragmented management of the country’s water resources.
There are at least 30 agencies related to the creation of policy and regulation for the water sector. This includes the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the National Irrigation Administration (NIA), the National Water Resources Board (NWRB), and various local water districts, among others.
Neda said the creation of an apex body for water policy and a single body that will regulate the sector, similar to the setup of the Department of Energy and the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC), would be ideal for the water sector.
This will not only create order in the management of a very important natural resource but also government savings that will be avoided through the removal of duplicate functions in government.
Image credits: Laila d. Austria